09 September 2006

Dusk

You step out into the dusk. Grey and white clouds mount over the ranges; a full moon rises, huge, the colour of bone. Colour still lingers in the sky—violet, purple, mauve, a tinge of pink. Hues fade, moment by moment; the remains of the day are overwhelmed by twilight, the looming dark. Edges soften and disappear, leaving only forms and shapes; clarity becomes a remembered concept; the world is seen best from an angle, not confronted directly by the eye. This is the time of birds roosting, late shapes flitting quick across a road, the chink-chink of blackbirds, things half seen moving under branches. This is when the rustling starts in old sheds; when you hear the pattering run of small feet along the malthoid lining of the fowlhouse roof. Chooks murmur and shuffle on their perch. Perhaps a possum[1] might start up in the macrocarpas[2]—the sound of an old man trying to cough and gasp and chuckle all at the same time. Hearing it, a man reaches for his spotlight and .22.
You step out into the dusk, which is no longer a winter dusk. Cold, but without the edge, lacking the bitterness. You step out into the dusk and fall backwards out of the present, into a half dreamed world of wire netting and paling fences preserved with old sump oil and warped by the years. A cat springs onto a post, looks briefly back, and is gone. Vegetable gardens in back yards; careful rows hoed; a few cabbages; a pruned vine trained along the paling fence, tied with baler twine. Your grandfather sits in the doorway of the shed with his pipe and his memories. Perhaps he’s thinking of a time before your mother was born, or perhaps he’s thinking about what to plant in the plot he’s just finished turning over.
You step out into the dusk and people you never met walk out of the shadows. They build fires and camp on river banks, cook eels and kereru, and move on past you, upriver, into the shadow of the mountain. They nod to you as they walk by and you do the same. No words. A ruru[3] calls and another answers; in the moonlight, something runs across a clearing. You don’t know what it is, but you know it will never be seen anywhere but here, in this time, in this twilight, in the back of your mind.


Notes:
I've been working on a post about dreams, and seem to have stalled. Late the other night I abandoned it (perhaps temporarily) and started writing something completely different; something not intended as a post; something I thought would have no structure, would go nowhere. Writing for the sake of writing and nothing more. Later, I stopped, sat back and wondered where on earth—or elsewhere—it came from. This is it.

1. The introduced Australian brushtail possum, Trichosurus vulpecula.
2. Cupressus macrocarpa. Known as Monterey cypress elsewhere but here simply as macrocarpas, these are near-ubiquitous features of the rural New Zealand landscape.
3. The morepork, Ninox novaeseelandiae. Aotearoa's only extant native owl.

Photos (click on them if you want a larger image):
1
. A view East across the upper Pohangina Valley to the southern Ruahine Range, winter 2006.
2. My maternal grandmother, Veronica Blake (R; dark hair), and her sister, Aileen. Date unknown, probably the first few years of the 20th Century. The original photographer was H.H. Clifford, of Christchurch, N.Z. Veronica ('Nana' to us when we were kids) grew up and married James McGrath.
Photos and words © 2006 Pete McGregor

20 comments:

herhimnbryn said...

You step out into the dusk and people you never met walk out of the shadows. They build fires and camp on river banks, cook eels and kereru, and move on past you, upriver, into the shadow of the mountain. They nod to you as they walk by and you do the same......

This sent a shiver down my spine and the hairs on my forearms stood up. All at 7.40 am.

Your writing has the power to take one to another world.

MB said...

I love this. I'm so glad you followed the thread. That beautiful top photo of a landscape of shape and form could have been taken in my region.

Mary said...

This is quite stunning.

You know, there is more than a hint of a dream here even though you describe reality so beautifully ...

... and thank you for your encouragement, Pete.

pohanginapete said...

HhnB; that's the sort of comment that people who write aspire to. Like Butuki's comment the other day, it left me feeling delighted, but slightly disoriented, for the rest of the day. Thankyou.

MB, then you're lucky to live where you do! As I am. Thanks for the affirmation; good to hear from you.

Thankyou Mary. You're right, there are definite elements from dreams there. The curious thing is, I'm not sure I could clearly distinguish the dreamed elements. Where does memory end and imagination begin; where and how far do dreams encroach? Maybe I should write more when I'm exhausted? Guess I'll have plenty of opportunity...

Dave said...

Pete - the form fits the subject matter here. Great writing, as usual. And thanks for the link the that mp3 - that's a really neat call!

EA Monroe said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
EA Monroe said...

I love your words and the images conjeured. Dreaming the dream; a realm I often explore. Thank you.

pohanginapete said...

Cheers Dave. Hearing ruru call is sheer magic. It's even better than it sounds on the mp3; that recording is unusual in the amount of calling going on. Usually the calls are less frequent, and the silences between add to the haunting quality. With luck, you'll hear it for yourself one day...

eam: Thankyou :^D Maybe I'll try finishing the post on dreaming. It's a very different style, though.

herhimnbryn said...

Mornin'!
Hope you don't mind, have mentioned your Blog in my latest post. Will remove mention and link is you wish.

pohanginapete said...

HHnB: Not at all; I'm pleased you've thought it worth the link. And I thoroughly enjoyed your post — got a good laugh from it and recognised far too much of it from my own experience...

sylph said...

my first visit. why did I wait? love this atmosphere and the ruru...he knows he's got 30 sec. so is hamming it up.

herhimnbryn said...

Thanks for visiting my blog and your empathetic comment! :)

Brenda Schmidt said...

"You step out into the dusk and people you never met walk out of the shadows."

Wow, Pete. Fantastic. I felt a shiver too.

pohanginapete said...

Sylph: Thanks, and welcome :^D And yes, ruru are real characters.

HHnB: I will try to avoid too much of some aspects of the empathy. The wine-related aspects, in other words ;^P

Thanks Brenda; I'm delighted. Now I just have to trust I can manage it again... the fear of many people who write, I suspect.

chuck said...

When one is fully conscious and aware... at dusk (and dawn, too), one can "join in" the migration of "ancestors" 'twixt this world and "the other world"...but your prose puts it much more poeticly than this rather arcane exegesis.

You touch on the very real, and not so surreal, aspects of "time travel".

Thanks...

pohanginapete said...

Thanks Chuck. Just last night I read something by one of Aotearoa's finest historians, the late Michael King; in his book Being Pakeha he points out how, conceptually, Maori "...look forward into the past and backward into the future..." Logical discourse struggles with concepts like this; this, it seems to me, is where poetry has so much more to offer.

Patry Francis said...

Dusk has always been my favorite time of day. Your post only adds to its melancholy radiance.

pohanginapete said...

Patry, yes, dusk is a very special time of day. Dawn has its own magic, but I see much less of it now than I used to ;^D

KiwiSoupGirl said...

hey there Pete - have been AWOL for a time...and to return to this scalp tingling delight of words/pictures melting together was a ....well...a delight! The edge of my reality still prickles - and it all feels vaguely familiar too.

Thank you for reminding me of my ancestors, who are always with me. Stunning...!
:-) from KSG

pohanginapete said...

KSG: Thanks! Good to see you back, and I trust you're feeling revitalised after the AWOL ;^)