S and I are well into our 3rd week together in Napier, Hawke’s Bay, and the thought of leaving is already making us a bit pouty. Our fantastic digs are set on a fishing wharf, at the edge of one of the many postcard-perfect places in town. It’s name, Ahuriri, has us giggling a hundred thousand times, ever since the first weekend stroll when S said it like an Asian confirmation of an interesting fact. The jetties are accessible not only to the trucks operated by the various fishing companies, but to the local noon-time fishermen of all ages, peering optimistically down the line. Where the stone path recedes, the pebble shore is a charcoal grey, and the lapping waves run from seafoam to mint to emerald. The fresh mussels and meaty fish nourish our bellies, and the open plains and full moon and stars nourish our souls.
We love it here.
If only everyone could live on the water, just for a while. The ocean is at once a comforting and daunting thing. It isn’t until you spend your minutes and hours by it day after day that you recognize how its undulating vastness captures and amplifies your every thought, mood and sentiment.
There was a sort of a squall recently, with some parts of the country being hit hard with flash floods. In Hawke’s Bay, we wallowed for a few days in round-the-clock spittle and concrete-colored skies. I cracked the glass door to our balcony open to feel the crisp bite of wind on my face, but to be perfectly honest, I spent those days trying hard to have nothing to do with the outdoors. Our coffee supply ran low because every other minute felt like the perfect moment to curl up with a cuppa. Beyond the glass the sea desaturated itself of all its colors, and simmered a sultry stew. It prized the dark twisted thoughts from my mind unwillingly, and let them boil there, til the inside of my head swirled in unison. A soup of doubt, worry and fear.
It’s a mistake to spend these days inert. The howling wind and ominous clouds make it only too easy to feel awful about yourself. After a while, you run out of cuppas and the will to believe that you’re born for brighter days. What you need to do is take the wind by the horns and tickle its balls into submission by blazing forth in a streak of flames. Down by the wharf, fishermen in gum boots and haphazard rain jackets peer squinty-eyed into the frost-laden wind from under dripping wet hats, holding onto ropes and nets with ice cold fingers, braving the weather for their trade. No cuppas til the work is done, and all the better for their hearts.
Storms, too, shall pass. On the first clear day, the sun got up, stretched from east to west, started the coffee, then glared all day in a sky devoid of clouds, the stirring winds hushed, the ground warming eagerly to its touch. The faraway cliffs stepped forwards from the wallpaper of the sky, startling me into an apologetic ‘Oh!’, like party guests I’d taken too long to recognize.
During that magic hour when the sun is steeped just right over the wharf, you would think that you’d never seen so much rhythm in liquid form. The surface of the water cups, leaps, dispels and regroups to make the light dance, and as it moves over to the jetty, it picks out the metallic parts of the old fishing boats, raising a few dozen vertical gleams, masts of light alongside those of wood. The morning is like a song.
[Photos by author]