Tennyson Inlet, Aotearoa New Zealand

February 28, 2021

South.

Welcome to Tennyson Inlet.

We came via the only road here, the only road away. It's a ridiculous scribble of tarmac, up a mountain and down the other side. One lane. Two lanes. One and a half.

Somewhere on it, cell service dropped away, no matter who our carrier was.

Somewhere on it, the people making the road respected a particular tree enough that they let it stay standing, poured the asphalt around it. Tossed in one reflective strip, and called it good. Nobody got this far by going too fast anyway.

We'll pull into the campground. It has maybe a dozen spots to park or set up a tent, scattered into the trees.

We'll take our pick. Nobody is here. Nobody is fifty miles from here.

As afternoon burns in, the bees, wasps, bumblebees get more frantic. Summer is drawing to a close. Anything that looks like pollen is precious. What's this big white thing? Is it a new kind of flower? Swarm, investigate, go away disappointed. Back to tiny yellow petals in the grass.

The forest around is native. Not the pine and landslides and piles of dead trees on the main road, an hour away. Manuka. Silver fern. And finally, for the first time in my life, Rimu.

Rimu are in the pantheon of New Zealand's Great Trees. They live to at least 1000 years, and the one near my sleeping spot must be at least 700.

It stands tall, regal. A bare trunk soaring thirty meters then tendrils, branches in every direction for fifteen meters more. Its own leaves tip each writhe, tiny collections of pipe-cleaner leaves. A gaggle of spiny-leafed epiphyte visitors live in all the nooks and crannies. It's two to three times taller than every other tree in sight - and there's nothing like it up North.

But we're not in the North. More specifically, we're not in the North Island. Yesterday, I pulled the van up the knobbled ramp onto the giant Interislander Ferry. Waited for the four hour sailing - arriving at midnight with a motley assortment of folks who were only there because they didn't have a better option.

The woman pacing the lower decks, doing laps back and forth, back and forth, ten paces at a time. The group of three middle-aged men, four beers in by the time they shut down the bar - 40 minutes into the voyage. A man hunched on his bag, watching sitcoms on his phone with the sound blaring. People sleeping. People sleeping on benches, people sleeping on floors, in corners, in hallways, at the foot of the stairs. Ordinarily, there'd be things to do - whole decks to explore of this massive, cruise-sized ship. But on the midnight sailing, it's just blue sign after blue sign. CLOSED. CREW ACCESS ONLY. NO ENTRY. So the weary masses and I, with the van rocking four decks below, sailed on through midnight, docked, drove ourselves off and back into our lives.

That was sixteen hours ago, two weeks if you carry the time difference. Here, the clock ticks by in cicada buzzes. Wingclaps rhythmic, seconds parsed, time passing at an insect's scale.

Because out here, they're the rule and I'm the exception. Insects. Plants. Not even many birds. And us.

Have a wild week,

-Steven

p.s. The best thing I read all week was unquestionably this interview with US Congressperson Maxine Waters and musician Megan Thee Stallion. Amazing. :)

❤️.s. Curious to hear more about what I'm finding out here? I'm posting at least two updates a week and lots of photos on our Patreon for everyone who's a member. Come check it out, and help make this possible!

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