After seeing the most beautiful thing I have ever seen I went to a place that echoed my home.
The water that flows into Huka Falls is crystal clear but as the wide-mouthed river is forced into a small, narrow, natural canal the colors deepen into rich, terrifying blues that splash thick white rapids against the sheer black rocks that canal the water. I have never seen a river that has rapids simply because the water is trying to fit, deepening and raging until it pours triumphantly back into a wide-mouthed river. There are no rocks protruding from the water that create deep holes in the current, I couldn’t see rocks the waterfall poured over, the clear water too thick. As I walked on the bridge that crossed the 30ft canal and felt the breeze from the still air push up from the crashing waves, I paused in the middle and looked over the railing into the water, feeling the mist whip from the rapids and noise wake up my blood. For a moment I wanted to jump into the water, there seemed to be no dangerous head bashing rocks, it was pure. Then the water roared reminding me of it’s power and I knew of course I couldn’t, but that’s the effect the water had, it was beautiful and terrifying. Dangerously beautiful. Calm in it’s crystal clear nature while raging with it’s power. I wanted to play with it but it’s ice could rapids slammed against the canal screaming it’s bone-crushing capabilities. I immediately had immense respect for this frothing, angry and blissful rapid. I tried to imagine what would happen to someone in this water, some kayaker must have tried to find out. For the first time in all my rapid gazing I couldn’t see any sort of path down the water because it was all a washing machine on heavy duty. Each wave reacting into more waves. At the end of the maybe 800m canal it all explodes instinctually, dispersing into the clear calm water down river. Frothing and building under the waterfall then the white water settles back into a deep calm blue that’s clear on the banks. Apparently people have kayaked it.
After running along beside the river and feeling it beside me I went back to Lesley’s car. A great older lady who has given me a room in her house, let me use her shower, did my long over due laundry, and has cooked me delicious traditional New Zealand family dinners with local meats and veggies from her garden. I sat down in her car bewildered. Words pointlessly fell out of my mouth not being able to construct, articulate the power of that water. I apologized for stumbling over so many words explaining to her that I just had no words, so I said thank you. She laughed and smiled while she sat patiently and watched my flabbergasted self. She pulled out of the gate that was about to close as it does everyday at dusk. We drove up to her son’s house to pick up a generator for that weekends family get together. They use the generator to keep the pig roast turning over the fire. We pulled into the driveway canopied by the evenly spaced trees that were blossoming pink flowers from their moss covered branches. I could see in Lesley’s eyes and smile that picking up the generator wasn’t a chore for her, that attaching the little trailer to her car wasn’t work because she it was a all an excuse to see her son, daughter-in-law, and two grandsons who were six and four. Their house was quaint and humbly sat on top of one of the many green rolling hills that were all lined with fences contouring the landscape. We parked in front of the barn that naturally had old pieces of metal rotting and rusting in front of it and inside was piled high with any and evry tool, all disorganized but her son knew exactly where everything was.The little four year old came running out to the barn, no shoes, no pants, only a striped collared shirt while I had my nano and fleece on with my hands deep in my warm pockets; the tough New Zealand boy didn’t seem to notice the cold, drizzle, or clouds that hid the sun. Then I heard a little yelp from behind me. I looked around and didn’t see anything. I heard it again. I heard a “look up!” in a squeaking little boys voice. I looked up to see the little six year old perched on top of one of the trees waving with his skinny arm. His mom walked right past him and said “oh yah that’s a great climbing tree there.” He eventually came down and began, and never stopped, talking about a roller coaster park and each ride then about their new calves. He tugged my arm to show me but Lesley and I were about to head out. I looked at the landscape, at the family in their muck boots, the four year old curled into his mom’s chest for warmth, and heard their familiar words. It felt like home, the countryside in Addison county, Vermont. I heard my own young voice in the little boys ramblings about roller coasters and animals, saw my brother in him when he was perched in the tree, saw both of us as the damp and cold four year old curled up to his mom for warmth. I looked around at the 10 acres they owned and memories of curiosity poured through me. I remembered finding secret streams, pockets in the forest, and I remembered days lost in my imagination. Coming home at the end of a day of exploring and being wet and shivering from falling in the stream, as I always did, and curling up to my mom with tea for warmth.
Maybe the river’s pounding waves and mist washed a tough layer off of me at Huka Falls, maybe the beauty of the thick clear water made me more vulnerable, maybe it was my exhaustion after a day of travel. Whatever it was, as I saw those rolling green hills highlighted piercingly against the dark clouds and the cows wondering to graze, as I heard the familiar conversation that families have, I felt my home.