One of the things that makes New Zealand different from home is the light. It’s the way the sun shines, the shadows it casts, the different hues in the sky it creates. I walk to work in the morning and the sun is rising, shining brightly on Mt. Cecil and casting the snow ablaze into a fierce fire. The low clouds look as if they are cutting into the mountain and have a soft blue glow from the reflection of the snow above and the lake below. The sun has not reached the Remarkable mountains yet and they have a faint shade of blue. In the distance towards Frankton and beyond the sky is a fierce purple and yellow. I walk to work, along Lake Wakatipu and see the long ripples come to the shore. They bring with them the colours of the sun on the mountains, the purples and reds. The lake is a pallet, full of paint for my mind and memories. I do this walk every day to work and every day I let the images soak into my brain. I will look back someday later in life and remember that there was a time when I got to experience a piece of heaven every morning. I can’t help but compare it to how I used to go to work - defrosting my car in the dark, shivering, winding through the dark forest. I watch tourists take pictures before they move onto the next place - perhaps Christchurch or Dunedin. I remember how I felt when I first came here, awed and inspired by the beauty of it all and thinking I would do whatever it would take to stay.
I live in a place called Fernhill, which is just that - a steep hill that rises above Queenstown and the lake. In the winter my home never gets the sun because it never becomes that high in the sky. You can see your breath in the morning in your flat and you dress in layers around the house because you don’t want to spend the extra money to heat the place. When you walk down the road in the morning, the sidewalk is covered in frost and sparkles like diamonds. Again, the sun and the light come into play. There are quite a few days in the winter that are dreary and heavy with low clouds. This makes the locals and tourists happy because they know there’s a good chance more snow is falling on the mountains. But the days it is clear the sun is glorious. It only hangs around in town for a short while and is definitely gone by 3:00 at the latest. The sun heats up the place as it hangs low but shines brightly. As you walk through town you feel it on your face, let it soak into your hair, and it is the most amazing feeling. I get flashbacks of when I was warm and full of sun and how my family back home is being baked in the July heat. I relive happy memories of summers being tan and active and I watch them fade as the sun dips below the mountain and shrouds the town into a cool shade again.
There aren’t many trees here in the center of the south island. The mountains are covered in grass or rocks or shrubs but there is a sense of barrenness. There are some areas where I feel like I am driving on the moon. The sun magnifies this. Long strips of light slice the mountains and illuminates their shape and form. The white snow looks blue in some parts and in other places the snow is so white on the mountains that it can completely blend in with an overcast sky. A few months ago I went to a place called Lake Tekapo, about a three hour drive from Queenstown. We were in a race, against the setting sun, against the light as we climbed Mt. John. There we sat and watched the sun go down and felt we were almost at the end of the world. The lake stopped looking like water and instead became a fierce turquoise rock. The mountains in the distance that were brown were now purple and yellow, set ablaze. I sat there in a small shelter of rocks on the top of the mountain, hiding from the strong wind, snuggled up against my boyfriend Steve, and I saw the strong sun illuminating his profile. His face was aglow, his eyes were sharp and I watched as he took in this little spot we had all to ourselves. It was almost like I was looking at him for the first time. I will remember this moment for the rest of our lives, us drenched in the sun, newly in love and away from all stress in the world below. I traveled on my own for months and months, experiencing beauty and inspiring moments, just hoping that someday I would be able to share them with someone I cared about. Finally a moment like that had come.
I walk home from work as the sun sets. The mountains I saw in the morning look completely different than they do now. There is a trace of purple wisps in the sky and the Remarkable mountains that were blue before are now fiercely white on top purple rock. The snow defines each crack and crevice and the mountains look like they have veins, as if they were alive. And really, the way they are always changing could lead one to believe that they actually are. I walk out onto a line of rocks that cuts into the lake and watch as the water smoothly lap past me. The lake is purple now and my soul drinks in the colours. I wish my family and friends back home could see this. I want them to understand. I want them to see that there are places like this in the world that really do exist. Maybe I just need confirmation from them that I am not actually dreaming.
Living here in Queenstown is not all fun and games. There are things I miss from home, and things that can make life somewhat frustrating here. But as long as I have this light, this continued feeling that I am in this special place, in a far corner in the world, I think everything is going to be okay.
New Zealand is the place where I came to rest after being unhappy at home and then constantly on the move in my travels. It is the country where I found my best friend and love. It’s where I have had the opportunity to work and be friends with people from all over the world. It’s where I have seen more beautiful sunsets, sunrises and rainbows to last one person’s life time. But most importantly it’s the place where my inner compass, the one that has been spinning constantly for the last year with no real direction has finally come to rest. What is that light I keep seeing and feeling everyday? Maybe it’s some higher power, looking out for me. Call it God, call it whatever you like but something is out there. Perhaps it was in New Zealand where I was finally able to let it shine in.