I took for granted how close it always was.
The ocean. New Zealand, reclining in the south-west Pacific, up against the Tasman. I grew up there. Where the bays have such pretty names. Diamond Harbour, across from the port of Lyttelton, where we watched the ships dock. Watched clouds roll
over the hills like waves. On Christmas Day we went swimming. On holiday we drove south. To Kakanui, near Oamaru, north of Dunedin, a perfect peninsular, surrounded by water.
Here my grandparents lived in a limestone house, on the rivermouth. My grandmother painted the tides, and it was here that I learnt to fish. How to properly pack a picnic basket, skim stones, and beachcomb. Out past the macrocarpa tree, and the
sign that read: PLEASE DO NOT STAND ON RIVER BANK AFTER DARK. PENGUINS MUST GET HOME.
The mouth of the Kakanui river, a broad stretch of smooth grey water, lined with smooth grey stones, round and flat. Herons stood in the shellows, took flight like sheets of newsprint. Further around the headland a path led down through gorse
and golden cliffs. The stones were smaller here and at low tide the waves revealed rock pools, as far as a child's eye could see. Year after year we returned to the same heart shaped pool to find chains of pearl-like seaweed, tiny fish, and
molluscs. Undisturbed the pool reflected the sky. At high tide, rough waves flung ropes of seaweed and paddle crabs up onto the beach.
One could find whole paua shells for soap dishes, driftwood to make mobiles with, and kelp for the garden. We took home pebbles, cats eyes, polished glass, and shells like trumpets that whispered the sea from the windowsills. Later I moved
to Wellington, a city full of harbour. There seemed to be more sea than city, and now, from here home seems to be less land than water. Particularly salty, and windswept.
by Hannah Ström