At 7 p.m. Jacobs' Ladders reach down from the western cloud, the sun still only two thirds of the way on its journey down towards the horizon. A row of thin, wind-gnarled macrocarpas on a long, slow slope; silhouettes against golden light. I should stop and reach for the camera.
Then the vision's gone; the road dips into a dull, low valley.
Plastic flowers, yellow and orange and pink; plastic flowers bright in a pile against a fencepost, bright in the fading evening, bright against the dull green grass, the long grass rising to smother the marker, the reminder — this is where someone's life ended. A moment of realisation.
Then the world carries on.
A pair of ducks speeds over a green paddock where a brown bull grazes; an irregular patch of bright sunlight slides over the hills; a sunbeam slips through a gap in an old shed and illuminates a dusty jar of old nails on an age-grimed bench. Plovers harass a kahu, wind ripples the surface of a small pond behind a farm dam.
Beside a fallen macrocarpa, dry and bleached, a rabbit stretches to nibble then sits up at the sound of a distant four-wheeler. Low sun shines through the rabbit's ears.
The world carries on. Someone places plastic flowers which fade slowly as the months and years pass. The brown bull goes to market and is sold, minced with god-knows-what and extruded into plastic tubing, as dog roll. Someone shoots the rabbit. A farmer chainsaws the fallen macrocarpa into a winter's supply of firewood and listens as it crackles and sparks on cold evenings. New generations of ducks fly over the green paddock, unaware of their ancestors who flew over that same paddock on that particular evening.
Someone drives past plastic flowers leaning against a fencepost on the road to Whanganui, on an evening when Jacobs' Ladders reach down from the sky. The world carries on.
I should stop and reach for the camera, but the moment's gone.
1. The "Wh" in Whanganui in this area is pronounced approximately like "W", not as "F"; thus, "Whanganui" sounds much like "Wanganui", which is the more common spelling.
2. The birds: Plovers — spur-winged plover, Vanellus miles novaehollandiae; kahu — Australasian harrier, Circus approximans. The ducks were probably mallards.
3. Macrocarpa — Cupressus macrocarpa. Harry Ricketts has written a most informative and entertaining piece about macrocarpas in Thirteen ways of starting a New Zealand novel called macrocarpa. Do check it out.
1 & 2. Pohangina valley fenceposts. Out in front of my place, on the edge of the terrace.
Photos and words © 2008 Pete McGregor