Sustenance for the soul

Beauty alone isn’t enough to sustain you, or so went my stock reply to the stock Auckland observation, ‘It’s so beautiful down there, you’ll never want to come back.’

But there is something profoundly nourishing about the excesses of the landscape here: I seem to feed on it, to drink it in. Every time I experience that little shock of glimpsing the lake, or the school-gate view of Hawea Flat with its astonishing striations of colour, or am distracted from drawing the curtains by the dark hills against a perfect luminous evening sky, I breathe a little deeper and the hubbub in my brain goes a little quieter.

It’s a kind of falling in love, with a depth I didn’t expect. Beauty is assumed to be a luxury, but exposure to this place already seems to be acquiring the compulsive dimensions of something more necessary. When we say things like, ‘next year when we’re back in Auckland’, I feel momentarily bereft, a little foreshadowing of heartbreak. A part of me has fused itself, barnacle-like, to the landscape, and the prising off will inevitably be painful.

Photography is disappointingly inadequate, the camera failing entirely to capture the scale and panoramic sweep of the place, the startling closeness and ubiquity of the mountains, the subtleties and juxtapositions of colour and texture.

I find myself thinking in terms of the soul – its soothing, its sustenance, quietness of – and wonder if perhaps I’ve located mine for the first time.

Of course, it would be too easy to conflate the experience of living in this beautiful, magnetic place with the experience of not working, freed from pressure and responsibility and gifted unprecedented riches of time. Maybe the same inner peace would await me as a kept woman in the central suburbs. (Hmmm, how can I find out?)

Because Auckland is a city with its own profound beauty, and I’ve always loved it for that: the thrilling daily glimpses of the sea, the graceful delineations of its harbours, the rolling volcanic terrain, the beaches, the pohutukawas, the lushness of its greenery.

But Auckland’s is a more casual kind of beauty, more accessible, less imposing, less humbling. And in Auckland there are so many distractions in the foreground, not least the current proliferation of gorgeously designed and wickedly tempting eateries, drinkeries and other urban play spaces.

For now, it feels good to have exchanged the cosmopolitan aesthetics of the city for something more raw and atavistic, to be embracing my bit of rough for the year ­– even if, as a love affair, it’s doomed to an early ending.

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