I remember Dirk hunting mice. He simply sat, motionless, on the kitchen floor, watching the hole in the wall where the pipe passed behind the refrigerator. Even when he turned his head to look at me, then turned back to the mouse path, he seemed so still, as if the movement emphasised its own absence.
Te Awaoteatua Stream rushes to the Pohangina. Always in motion. For all I know, this small stream has never ceased flowing for hundreds of years, perhaps far longer. I watch the water for a while, then look away and the boulders on the bank seem to creep back up the little valley. The distant roar of a stag. Poplar leaves hang perfectly still above the rushing water; one detaches, spirals down, and when it lands there’s a faint scratch and rustle. Then nothing but the sound of water.
No matter how quietly I tread, I sound cacophonous.
On the way back down No. 3 Line I stop to listen. I don’t know what I’m listening for—perhaps just the silence itself. It seems to infiltrate; the absence of sound becomes the absence of movement. I realise I’m hardly breathing. Nothing requires effort because everything has paused; the afternoon hesitates, relaxes, waits.
As I stand here, silent, perfectly still, a piwakawaka appears and flits around me, so close I wonder whether it’ll settle on me. It’s so close because I’m so still I’m hardly here at all—I know this; there’s no question the encounter arises from the quality of stillness.
I look down from the bridge at the rushing stream, and realise that this flow has the same quality of stillness as the leaf when it settles; as Dirk waiting; as the silence that follows the stag’s roar. I wonder whether that same quality can ever be found in a red car with polished paint and a large exhaust, even when the oil’s run dry.
1. Rhipidura fuliginosa, the New Zealand fantail.
Photo 1: Flow: Te Awaoteatua Stream, Pohangina Valley.
Photo 2: Raupo (Typha orientalis); No. 3 Line, Pohangina Valley.
Photos and words © 2006 Pete McGregor