Every Friday we drive 15 minutes around the island to "town" where it's pizza night at the local cafe. They're still not allowed to serve food on premises, but we take a few boxes of their gourmet wood-fired pizza and sit in a grassy lot next door for a picnic. There are always other families there. The kids play while the parents chat. It feels utterly normal. It feels like a small town. On those nights it feels like we are part of this odd and beautiful place, and for this I am utterly grateful.
More and more, I know this is the life we were meant to live, though I never would have guessed that seven years ago when Isaac brought me here for the first time (also on Thanksgiving!) shortly after we fell in love. We flew up here at the end of a three week road trip in the South Island, bringing wth us a bag of groceries so we could cook a Thanksgiving dinner for his parents when we arrived. This year we cooked that same dinner in the same kitchen and ate it on the same table with our two little kids bouncing around. I felt so grateful for all we have and all that's happened in those seven years.
A lot has happened since I last wrote on this blog, too. I've been taking it easy since my head injury (and being way more careful!). Here's an update in photos and short captions.
We had some help pouring concrete for half the posts that will be the foundation for our tiny house, but the deck posts needed to be completed by us on our own. We handed the kids over to Nana and Grandpa for a few hours and worked as fast as we could, levelling the posts and mixing concrete to set them. It was the first afternoon that felt like what I always imagined building a house would be, working alongside Isaac in our dirty boots and overalls, completely in the "zone" of building together.
I also finished the garden beds that will sit on the hillside below the house. I've been procrastinating on filling them with topsoil because it's laborious and boring work, shovelling and wheel-barrowing load after load. I'll be so happy when that's done.
Though New Zealand's battle with Covid is really only just beginning, things are opening up and people are coming out. We've loved gathering each Monday with a few families at the beach to play and chat. These weekly get togethers have anchored me here in a way I really needed. Every family on the island is unique, with a different story about how they ended up here, and a different background and way of seeing the world. We've loved meeting them all.
Our toddler has mostly given up wearing shoes, and despite the odd splinter or two, you can go anywhere safely without them. We have also ditched diapers in favor of being naked at the beach, which led quickly to potty training – we didn't really have to do anything! It just happened. I'd been nervous about it for the past year, having no idea how to potty train a child. Turns out it's really easy, so long as you spend most of your time outside and your kid loves being bottomless!
Spring is a time of sunny days and misty rainstorms. I go a few times a week to my favorite hike on the island by myself, and had the pleasure of walking into the clouds this past week. The manuka (tea tree) trees are blossoming white all over the island, ushering in yet another wave of this long and lovely southern hemisphere spring.
And speaking of Spring, the rats are more active than ever. We're encouraged to trap them, since they are invasive to New Zealand and do a number on the native ground-dwelling birds. After seeing a few around our back porch, I started trapping. I catch one every night I set our trap, and always dread drowning them in the morning. "Sorry," I say as I drop the cage into the bucket of water. "You were never meant to be here to begin with."
We spent Thanksgiving here exploring a beach on the northern side of the island, one with towering pine trees that smelled to me like home and added to the homesickness I woke up with. There wasn't a soul on the beach, and we found all kinds of new shells and treasures, including a washed up puffer fish that the kids loved to play with. Who knew their spikes were so hard! Like teeth. I gathered all kinds of greenery and plants to decorate our house with for the holidays.
Thanksgiving dinner was, as I said, a repeat of the one we made on the first day I ever set foot on this island, seven years ago. We've aged, thanks mostly to having had children. Here we are in 2014 on Thanksgiving (left and center), and in 2021 (far right). I've always felt homesick during holidays if I'm far from my family, and this year was no exception. But as I age and form a family of my own, I know that home travels with me, and the lines that define family morph and grow and change over time. When I look at it this way, we spent Thanksgiving this year at home and with family – we couldn't really ask for anything more. ♥️