No one tore the ground with ploughshares
or parcelled out the land
or swept the sea with dipping oars-
the shore was the world’s end.
Clever human nature, victim of your inventions,
why cordon cities with towered walls?
Why arm for war?
– Ovid, Amores, Book 3
I hardly believe that a place like this can exist. Driving up the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island is a journey back in time. Penguins dance and bob up and down in the shallow waters. The great glacier looms in the distance. The ribs of an old ship wreck reach out of the black sand on a forgotten beach. There are very few signs of settlement save for the beautiful birds that peek out at us from behind the tall ferns. Having no natural predators, the birds make brazen attempts to get to know us. I have stuffed a few crackers in my pocket for such an occasion. We feast.
We explore the beautiful shores of Abel Tasman scrambling up rocks and peeking into caves. The rains come lightly in and out. We collect tiny amethysts that have washed up on shore. Long ago, my grandfather used to collect the same little violet gems from the beach. He would glue them to shells and make necklaces for us. Maybe I’ll do the same for my kids one day.
“Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?” These were French painter Gauguin’s questions. Though they are seemingly childlike, these are questions that we are asked when we travel. As we make our way farther around the world and meet with more and more people they become much harder to answer. But, in these beautiful remote places things become simple again.
“Where do we come from?” We come not from places but from people. We’ve come from our grandparents, parents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends.
“What are we?” We are just a couple of kids trying to figure things out.
“Where are we going?” Wherever we are going I hope that it is full of adventure and back into the arms of everyone that we love.